Something Wicked Heads To Social Media: ‘Project: Alibi’

on Tuesday, Aug. 26th

The spooky season is almost upon us, and that means its time for storytellers of all stripes to try and scare our socks off.

Such is the plan behind what’s currently called Project: Alibi, a mulit-platform ghost story from a pair of transmedia luminaries who are working together for the first time.

Steve Peters and Alison Norrington are well known in the world of experimental web-based storytelling. Peters hosts the StoryForward podcast while Norrington has been instrumental in building the international community of crossmedia creators into a recognizable rogues gallery for enthusiasts of the form.

Those roles in the greater transmedia community are just side gigs, however.

Peters is the founder of No Mimes Media and has worked on projects like the Emmy winning Dirty Work and campaigns for major feature films like Watchmen. Norrington is the founder of London’s storycentral and a best selling author who has worked with clients as diverse as Walt Disney’s Imagineering and Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

Project: Alibi is the duo’s first project together, and it’s one they are doing for themselves and giving away for free. To fund it they’ve turned—successfully—to the crowdfunding platform IndieGoGo. Now in the last few days of the campaign, Peters and Norrington are in stretch goal territory and are looking to bring a long a few friends for the ride.

Before we get there, however, we’ll start with what Project: Alibi is, and how Peters and Norrington wound up working together.

TURNSTYLE: First up: why a Hallowe’en road trip?

Alison Norrington: We were excited and inspired by the tension on the build up to Hallowe’en. Add to the mix the fun we could have by conjuring up a series of events that put our protagonist at the heart of some strange ‘happenings’, we felt it sets the scene for a great story. In addition we wanted to tell a story in real time, an interactive experience that twists and turns, ramping up the tension on the week running up to Hallowe’en and culminating at midnight on 31st October.

Steve Peters: Everyone loves a Road Trip! Plus, it’s not complicated; people immediately understand what it is! As for Halloween, from a design standpoint, it usually enables you to do pretty much any crazy thing you want with little constraints. Because, ya know, something’s haunted! Or a ghost! Or UFO’s, or chupacabra or whatever. You can hand-wave anything! Make everybody’s phone ring! Why? It’s a dead person! Make the car in their driveway start! Why? Because it’s possessed! It’s storytelling without constraints. :)

TS: You label Project: Alibi as a multi-platform story, but make the point that the audience will only have to follow one social media account, the platform of which has given you special access. So what makes this multi-platform?

AN: It’s true that our audience/collaborators/co-conspirators don’t need to follow a host of accounts in order to dive in to the story. We wanted to keep it simple to add to the tension. However there are ways that Project: Alibi is also multi-platform as we will be telling Talbot Griffin’s story through images, music, telephone calls and back story/story extensions across other social media accounts and websites.

SP: Well, just because you follow just one account doesn’t mean there might not be links to other things in those posts or phone numbers or emails or packages to your door or whatever (not saying ANY of these is guaranteed). Our idea was to make it as easy as possible to consume. Plus, that feels more like real life, right?

TS: What platform is this that you have special access to?

AN: All we can say right now is that it’s a well known platform that’s been revitalized and lends itself perfectly to road trips.

SP: If I told you, I’d have to kill you…:) But to be clear, using it won’t be a requirement. We’ll give people a few options, even though most things will radiate from this central platform.

TS: What led you two to want to work together?

SP: Alison makes me laugh. And that’s hard to do….But seriously, I needed a writer who not only knows story but knows how to write for multi platform, and Alison just happened to be on Facebook at the wrong time when I pinged her to ask. It’s truly one of those times when you get tired of just saying “we really need to work together on something sometime” and just make it happen.

AN: Over a series of Skype conversations we realized that our interests and skills dovetailed nicely – Steve’s stellar experience design with an underlying appreciation of great storytelling coupled with my strong story expertise underpinned a keen awareness of audience. It seemed the perfect coupling. Steve mentioned a story idea that he’d been toying with for a while and in conversation the penny dropped. The rest is history. Oh, and apparently I make Steve laugh… And, did you know that’s hard to do! :)

TS: What prompted you to go the crowdfunding route?

SP: Well, that wasn’t the original plan, but as we dug into it, we realized that we could really up the scope of this with an albeit modest budget to help us cover hard costs.

AN: We’d initially planned to tell this story on a smaller scale without the need for funding, but as we began to dig into the story and discuss options and immersive qualities we realized that we were going to need a little help to get things off the ground. We’d had unexpected interest from friends and colleagues on artefacts and enhanced experiences as part of our sci-fi/horror experience and so we decided to kick off a crowdfunding attempt. Which is, may we add, loaded with clues itself! You don’t get much more multi platform than that! Clues on the crowdfunding page!

SP: Plus, I think it was a great way to take the temperature of an audience, see if they’d even be interested in a digital Halloween story in the first place. Lucky for us, folks seem to be very enthusiastic!

TS: You’re crowdfunding and then giving the whole thing away for free, is that an ethical stance? A practicality? Somewhere in between?

AN: Our intention was always to give this away for free. We had a story that we loved and felt was ripe for telling in innovative ways and wanted it to be a fun Hallowe’en experience for anyone and everyone that wanted to play along. It’s not so much ethical, more than we’d always intended for this to be something to be enjoyed as a collaborative story whilst also R&D’ing the idea itself through crowd funding.

SP: Yeah, I think it’s a little of both. I cut my teeth on building Alternate Reality Games, which have historically always been free to play, and asking someone to pay to play something like that is a really tough sell. Ultimately, we wanted to give people something for the love of the art of it. And everyone will have each and every Indiegogo backer to thank for it, which I think is a great thing.

Plus, because we’ll be blurring those fiction/reality lines, we want to leave open the possibility of someone just stumbling into our little tale…can’t do that with a pay gate.

TS: Now that you’ve been successful with the crowdfunding, do you think this is a viable funding path for original cross-media work? Or is this still just a break-even enterprise?

AN: I personally feel that this is a viable funding path but it requires a commitment and daily management. We have reviewed and added perks weekly and continue to analyze which ones are working – which is giving us early insights into our audience! We have some awesome stretch goals planned as we’ve tipped this over the $4027 so that we can really ramp up the scare factor on Hallowe’en. I think that crowdfunding has proven that it doesn’t have to be a break-even enterprise but can never underestimate the level of commitment and work that goes in to continually raising awareness. Btw, Steve is ACE at perk names!

SP: Oh I think it’s still a break-even enterprise at this point…at least for us. Crowdfunding has definitely changed the game in a lot of ways, and for the better, I think. Instead of going to somebody and sitting across the table from them and trying to convince them to believe in you and your work, you get to go directly to your audience. And I think that’s better in the long run. It keeps us as artists honest with ourselves, in a way. Plus, we’ve added some amazing people as stretch goals now that we’ve hit our target. Namely, Mike Monello (Blair Witch Project), Blair Erickson (Banshee Chapter), Brian Clark (Eldritch Errors ARG), and Jan Libby (lonelygirl15, Sleepy Hollow, The Following).

That said, I’m sure there are those out there who could turn quite a profit doing something like this, if they have an enormous network of followers and fans. Alison and I aren’t there…yet. :)

Project: Alibi wraps its funding campaign on August 28th at 11:59 PM PDT, just before the stroke of midnight.


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